16 January 2006
A select club of former African heads of state, chaired by former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano and with former South African president Nelson Mandela as its patron, has been established as an informal network to help strategise plans for the development of the continent.
Chissano, who spearheaded the initiative, was elected chair of the Africa Forum at the body’s inaugural meeting in Maputo, Mozambique last week. The former president of Benin, Nicophore Soglo, was elected deputy chair.
Its members include former United Nations secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, and former Organisation of African Unity (OAU) secretary-generals William Mboumouma of Cameroon and Ahmed Salim Ahmed of Tanzania.
Other former presidents on the forum are: Botswana’s Quett Masire; Burundi’s Pierre Buyoya; Cape Verde’s Aristides Pereira and Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro; Ghana’s Jerry Rawlings; Guinea-Bissau’s Henrique Rosa; Madagascar’s Norbert Ratsirahonana; Malawi’s Bakili Muluzi; Carl Ossmann and Cassam Eteem of Mauritius; Nigeria’s Yakubu Gowon; Miguel Trovoada of Sao Tome and Principe; Tanzania’s Benjamin Mkapa and Hassan Mwinyi; and Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda.
The forum’s brainstorming sessions will keep in mind the goals of the African Union (AU), which replaced the OAU, and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad).
The body’s first annual meeting will be held in mid-2006, when an executive secretariat will be established.
“It is a group of elders,” said John Pesha, interim executive secretary of the Africa Forum and a former Tanzanian diplomat based in South Africa. “Elders do not reprimand – they advise. This is a forum aimed at networking and complementing work in the area of peacemaking.”
Chissano said that the forum was an informal platform where former African leaders could map out strategies to assist with the political, economic and social development of the continent.
The former leaders said in a statement that they were encouraged by the emergence of democracy and a culture of peace in Africa, and pleased that more African heads of state were relinquishing power when their terms of office expired.
Pesha said the forum, established with the support of the Africa Institute of South Africa, would approach the South African government about the possibility of basing the secretariat’s offices in SA.